Q&A with Equestrian Artist Bettina Norton

If you don’t know who Bettina Norton is, you need to. This Santa Barbara native is an incredible artist who captures the ethereal beauty and grace of horses in her work.

Visions of peaceful, quiet moments in the moonlight and the balance of poise and power are depicted in charcoal, sumi ink, gold leaf, and acrylic. Horses in these works feel playful and spirited, yet elegant and refined at the same time. Of course we all know how horses make us feel in person, but Bettina’s skill of evoking that feeling of love, warmth, and companionship from an image on canvas is something I truly admire.

Bettina was kind enough to share some insight on her talent and passion. Read our Q&A below!

When did you become an artist? Do you do this full time?

I started drawing Breyer horses as soon as I could pick up a pencil. Somewhere in the age range of 6-8 years old. My mom would read stories to us and I’d sit there and draw for hours. This eventually transitioned into a mini studio in my bedroom, which traveled on every move with me, from home, to college, back to home and then on to grad school where I eventually graduated to a much larger art studio space. My motto has always been “The art needs to feel like it’s about to come off the page at you.”

I do not do this full time, being a graphic designer by trade and having a Masters in Psychology, I am involved in several professional endeavors.

Have you always depicted horses in your art?

Mostly, with a scattering of dogs, landscapes and girls mixed in. I have found that in the same way that some artists communicate most clearly using landscapes and/or nudes, for example, to talk about what they need to talk about, that horses are my clearest vehicle for communication to say what I need to say. I am also lucky that making the art gives me tremendous joy, while providing great happiness for the person who gets to have it later.

Tell me about your experience with horses and how they’ve impacted your life.

At 15 I was on track to go semi-pro in ballet. I quit, because I wanted to be around horses. As you may know, loving horses is an all or nothing thing. You’ve either got it, or you just “think they’re pretty.” Over and over again horses have been the center and bedrock of my life, giving me stability, adventure and routine all in one sweet loving package most recently named Frankie.

Do you base the horses in your paintings off of real horses that you have in mind?

Most of my art is centered around horses I know, and I find over and over again that they look like my sweet, gaited, chestnut Rocky Mountain Horse Frankie.

Do you ever name the horses in your paintings or create back-stories for them?

I do try and name all my pieces, but have yet to come up with a back story.

What famous horse, living or not, would you most like to meet?

Snowman. That horse only excelled more when pushed to extraordinary levels.

What is your personal favorite of your works?

Great question! This changes about once a year… currently, it is a self portrait of Frankie and I that I created about two months ago. “Frankie + Me” – this is a part of The Simplicity Series with will be releasing on May 3!

Above (left to right): Bettina & Frankie, her Rocky Mountain Horse; “Frankie + Me”, Bettina’s current favorite of her works; Frankie.

Bettina will be releasing a brand new series of pieces of on May 3: The Simplicity Series. This is a special selection of black and white pieces, that draw you in with your imagination, allowing your mind to fill in details, while evoking depth and emotion with monochromatic color. If you’d like to be the first to know when it launches, add your email here.

Check out Bettina Norton’s artwork here, and follow her on Instagram here.

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